I was a passionate trick-or-treater as a candy-addled kid, so today I am committed to enabling and encouraging trick-or-treating as a candy-buying grown up. When dusk settles in tonight, I will be on my front porch, candles lit, windows open, stereo playing a loop of “Ghostbusters,” “Thriller” and “Morgus the Magnificent,” with baskets of candy for the kids and maybe even a cooler of beer for some of their parents.
But, of course, that’s only Act I for a Halloween night. Later, Act II belongs to the adults and, as is so often the case, the scene shifts to the French Quarter and Marigny, where Bourbon, Frenchmen and Decatur streets become promenades of costumes and fashion catwalks for the creative, funny, risqué threads of the witching season.
The past weekend, with Voodoo Music Experience on and the city filled with visitors, dressed-up crowds thronged these areas. It felt like a surrogate for All Hallow’s Eve itself. But even if you hit it hard over the weekend, that is no excuse to blow off Halloween night, and there will be a lot going on downtown to tempt you out.
In particular, the Jim Monaghan Halloween Parade has grown into an annual centerpiece of the party in the French Quarter since first rolling in 1995. The parade doesn’t have traditional floats, but rather carriages bearing costumed riders who hurl beads and Halloween-themed throws. In and around them are all manner of bands and marching/dancing groups, including the Storyville Stompers, the Kazoozie Floozies, The Bearded Oysters and The Muffulettas.
The parade is named in honor of its founder, the late, great Jim Monaghan, who operated many watering holes in the French Quarter and was instrumental in transforming Decatur Street from a skid row to today’s bustling corridor of bars and restaurants. The parade begins at the late barkeep’s flagship, Molly’s at the Market (1107 Decatur St.) at 6:30 p.m. and winds its way on a loop circling most of the Quarter.
A key parade stop along the way is the Erin Rose (811 Conti St.) which started out as another Monaghan pub. This is where the parade’s costume contest will be held, and it’s a fitting venue indeed.
The Erin Rose is a tiny place but it lives up to Halloween in a huge way. Lots of bars dress themselves up for the holiday, especially French Quarter bars, and while some of this is as lame as cardboard bats and witches and such that double as beer brand ads, others get impressively theatrical. The Erin Rose is the exemplar of this second type.
The décor is so elaborate, it doesn’t even manifest all at once. Over the past few weeks I’ve been stopping in to admire the progress (and sample the Irish coffee) and on every visit the patina of horror has gotten more intricate, darker and more legitimately spooky. It starts with a base layer of black garbage bags coating the walls, which doesn’t sound like much but creates a disorienting surface, akin to the walls of a cave or the H.R. Giger biomorphic forms from the Alien movies. Over and around this go reams of cobwebs, harvests of skulls, life-size demons, blood splatters and more for a tormented tableau that, let’s face it, is really fun this time of year.
If a pub is going through all this trouble to dress up for Halloween, you’d better follow suit and wear a costume, too. I’ll see you down there just as soon as the candy bowl empties out here at home.